E-bookDid Apple collude with publishers to jack up the price of e-books?

You betcha, U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote ruled in Manhattan today after a three-week trial.

NYT story here, WSJ there.

A damages trial will follow.

Apple pursued a nutty defense, which held that it and the publishers did no wrong by colluding because they joined forces to combat Amazon's drive to monopolize e-book sales. The Amazon threat gave Apple good reasons to switch to an "agency" pricing model and do other things that helped publishers sustain higher prices, it alleged. The per se ban on price-fixing, Apple alleged, thus didn't apply to its dealings with the e-book suppliers.

John D. Rockefeller, Sr.'s Standard Oil Company tried pretty much the same thing, about 100 years ago. "Ruinous competition", he protested. It didn't work then either.

You can see Judge Cote's 159-page opinion — complete with a damning Steve Jobs email and color exhibits – here.

The WSJ's editors would have none of it, deeming the collusion "normal business practices". Which collusion would become, if the WSJ had its way.

Bonus:    "[I]t is no defense to participation in an illegal price fixing conspiracy to suggest that others did it too." Id. at 133.